Data from: Plant-litter-soil feedbacks in common grass species are slightly negative and only marginally modified by litter exposed to insect herbivory

  • Jon De Long (Louis Bolk Institute) (Creator)
  • Robin Heinen (Technical University of Munich) (Creator)
  • Emilia Hannula (Universiteit Leiden) (Creator)
  • Renske Jongen (Creator)
  • Katja Steinauer (University of Bern) (Creator)
  • T. Martijn Bezemer (Institute of Biology, Leiden University) (Creator)



Purpose: Insect herbivory affects plant growth, nutrient and secondary metabolite concentrations and litter quality. Changes to litter quality due to insect herbivory can alter decomposition, with knock on effects for plant growth mediated through the plant-litter-soil feedback pathway. Methods: Using a multi-phase glasshouse experiment, we tested how changes in shoot and root litter quality of fast- and slow-growing grass caused by insect herbivores affect the performance of response plants in the soil in which the litter decomposed. Results: We found that insect herbivory resulted in marginal changes to litter quality and did not affect growth when plants were grown with fast- versus slow-growing litter. Overall, presence of litter resulted in reduced root and shoot growth and this effect was significantly more negative in shoots versus roots. However, this effect was minimal, with a loss of c. 1.4% and 3.1% dry weight biomass in roots versus shoots, respectively. Further, shoot litter exposed to insect herbivory interacted with response plant identity to affect root growth. Conclusions: Our results suggest that whether litter originates from plant tissues exposed to insect herbivory or not and its interaction with fast- versus slow-growing grasses is of little importance, but species-specific responses to herbivory-conditioned litter can occur. Taken collectively, the overall role of the plant-litter-soil feedback pathway, as well as its interaction with insect herbivory, is unlikely to affect broader ecosystem processes in this system.
Date made available07 Jul 2022
Date of data production07 Jul 2022

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